Tag Archives: Proverbs

The Prayer of Agur

A few years ago a book that promoted the prosperity Gospel, A Prayer of Jabez, was making its rounds in the popular religious print world.

I never read it – and have no desire to read it.

I find the challenge of Jesus much more challenging and appealing: sell all you have and give it to the poor and follow me.

Of course, I haven’t followed that. Nor have I followed the injunctions for a missionary from today’s Gospel, Luke 9:1-6:

Take nothing for your journey…

Yet, for those of us not yet ready to take the plunge, today’s reading from Proverbs (30: 5-9) offers a way of praying for God’s guidance in regard to wealth:

Two things I ask of you, …
Put falsehood and lying far from me,
give me neither poverty nor riches;
provide me only with the food I need;
Lest, being full, I deny you,
saying, “Who is the Lord?”
Or, being in want, I steal, and profane
the name of my God.

A few years ago friends gave me a CD of songs of Bryan Moyer Suderman with a sung arrangement of this prayer of the unknown Azur. The words make the prayer a lot more poignant:

Two things I ask of you, O God:
Take away my falsehood and lying;
make me neither poor nor wealthy,
but feed me with the food I need.
For I know if I am full I’ll forget it comes from you.
If I am hungry I’ll steal and curse your name.
So, feed me with the food I need.

And so, until God gives me the grace to give up all and place my trust in the Providence of God, I think this prayer is a good first step.

So, pray this prayer today.

—-

The mp3 is available here.

 

The Playfulness of Wisdom

…then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the children of humans.

 The closing verses of today’s first reading from Proverbs 8: 22-31 are about Wisdom – another name for God.

What strikes me is the playfulness of God. Some versions translate this as rejoicing, but I think we need to be playful, as God is playful.

Pope Francis has insisted on the importance of joy in the Christian life. There is a proverb, “A sad saint is a sorry saint” or, in Spanish, “Un santo triste es un triste santo.

Today is the feast of a saint who was far from sad. He was a practical joker, not only to try to prevent people from calling him a saint but to reflect the playfulness of God. He would go around Rome with half his face shaved or in strange costumes. He at times would tweak the ears or nose of friends he met in the street.

Philip Neri, who was born in Florence (and who, by the way, respected the memory of Savonarola), was the apostle in Rome and founder of the Congregation of the Oratory. He was a friend of many saints of his era, including St. Ignatius Loyola and was also a confessor of Palestrina (who, I believe, wrote oratorios for Philip’s Oratory.)

As St. Philip once wrote,

Perfection does not consists in such outward things as shedding tears and the like, but in true and solid virtues, Tears are not a sign that a man is in the grace of God, neither must we infer that one who weeps when he speaks of holy and devout things necessarily lives a holy life. Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life; therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits. When a man is freed from a temptation or any other distress, let him take great care to show fitting gratitude to God for the benefit he has received.

I have been blessed with a crazy sense of humor – a heritage from my father. This has served me well, for I am less myself when I get too serious. And so I need to pray for playfulness and be grateful for this gift.

Today, may the playfulness of God, who created our world and delights to be with us, nourish our sense of humor, our playfulness.

Giving to beggars

A dilemma which faces many of us, especially those who live in a poor country, is how to respond to beggars.

Today’s first reading (Proverbs 3:27-34) offers some advice:

 Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim
when it is in your power to do it for him.
Say not to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give,” when you can give at once.

The Christian Community Bible translation is a little more pointed:

 Do not hold back from those who ask your help,
when it is in your power to do so.
Do not say to your neighbor, “Go away! Come another time;
tomorrow I will give it to you!” when you can help him now.

The Jerusalem Bible seems to offer a middle position:

 Do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it,
if it is in your power to perform it.
Do not say to your neighbor, ‘ Go away! Come another time!
I will give it to you tomorrow’ if you can do it now.

So what do I do when some one comes up to me and puts out a hand for money?

I notice that most Hondurans will give a lempira (about 5.5 cents) to almost everyone who asks them. This can happen in the streets, on the busses, or even if they enter a business. Frankly, I’m surprised.

But recognizing that I might come to be known as the “hand-out” gringo, I usually tell the person: “I am sorry, but it is not my custom to give money.”

A few years ago when we had a lunch program for kids here in Santa Rosa, I would tell the kids who asked for one lempira that there was a lunch program where they could get a meal. (Sad to say the lunch program has not reopened.)

But what I try to do is to look directly at the person and say this, treating them as persons. There have been a few times I’ve offered someone a meal and went and bought it for him. (Most beggars I see are men.)

Also, recently a young man I know ran across me on the street one night. He said his father was in the hospital and needed 240 lempiras (about $12.50) for a prescription. He showed me the prescription. I know the guy – he’s thinking of priesthood and works at the radio – and so I was more open to help. I opened my wallet and found only 140 lempiras (since I had left more cash at home). I gave it all to him. Walking back home I discovered I had a small wad of bills in my pocket that I had forgotten.

I hadn’t really given him all I had, but what I could.

What is right when someone begs from us? What is he or she really due?

This is a difficult question for me but I really think the answer lies in whether we establish a relation with the person begging.

I think of Peter and John in Acts 3: 1-10, confronting the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate. “Gold and silver I have none,” Peter says, “but what I have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up.”

Peter gave him what he had – the healing needed to bring the lame man into community with others. Peter and John “looked straight at” the beggar; they recognized their common humanity and common destiny as children of God.

So the next time someone asks you for money, do what you think best but at the very least look straight at the person, recognize him or her as a child of God, and address the person directly.

This may not be the best and most “Christian” response, but I think it is the starting point for us as we confront beggars, beginning to establish relationships.